Christopher Guest

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The Right Honourable
The Baron Haden-Guest
Guest4.jpg
Guest speaking at Vancouver Film School, July 18, 2008
BornChristopher Haden-Guest
(1948-02-05) February 5, 1948 (age 66)
New York City, New York, US
ResidenceSanta Monica, California
NationalityBritish-American
CitizenshipUnited States
United Kingdom
EducationThe High School of Music & Art
Alma materNew York University
OccupationActor, comedian, director, screenwriter, musician
Years active1971–present
Notable work(s)This Is Spinal Tap
The Princess Bride
Waiting for Guffman
Best In Show
A Mighty Wind
For Your Consideration
Home townNew York City
Spouse(s)Jamie Lee Curtis (1984–present; 2 children)
RelativesTony Curtis (father-in-law),
Janet Leigh (mother-in-law),
Kelly Curtis (sister-in-law)
 
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For the Law Lord, see Christopher Guest, Baron Guest.
The Right Honourable
The Baron Haden-Guest
Guest4.jpg
Guest speaking at Vancouver Film School, July 18, 2008
BornChristopher Haden-Guest
(1948-02-05) February 5, 1948 (age 66)
New York City, New York, US
ResidenceSanta Monica, California
NationalityBritish-American
CitizenshipUnited States
United Kingdom
EducationThe High School of Music & Art
Alma materNew York University
OccupationActor, comedian, director, screenwriter, musician
Years active1971–present
Notable work(s)This Is Spinal Tap
The Princess Bride
Waiting for Guffman
Best In Show
A Mighty Wind
For Your Consideration
Home townNew York City
Spouse(s)Jamie Lee Curtis (1984–present; 2 children)
RelativesTony Curtis (father-in-law),
Janet Leigh (mother-in-law),
Kelly Curtis (sister-in-law)

Christopher Haden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest (born February 5, 1948), better known as Christopher Guest, is an English-American screenwriter, composer, musician, director, actor, and comedian who holds dual British and American citizenship. He is most widely known in Hollywood for having written, directed and starred in several improvisational "mockumentary" films featuring an ensemble cast. This series of films began with This Is Spinal Tap, and continued with Waiting for Guffman, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration. Guest also had a featured role as the evil six-fingered Count Rugen in the film The Princess Bride.

He holds a hereditary British peerage as the 5th Baron Haden-Guest, and has publicly expressed a desire to see the House of Lords reformed as a democratically elected chamber. Though he was initially active in the Lords, his career there was cut short by the House of Lords Act 1999. When using his title, he is normally styled as Lord Haden-Guest. Guest is married to the actress and author Jamie Lee Curtis.

Early years[edit]

Guest was born in New York City, the son of Peter Haden-Guest, a British United Nations diplomat who later became the 4th Baron Haden-Guest, and his second wife, Jean Pauline Hindes, a former vice president of casting at CBS.[1] Guest's paternal grandfather, Leslie, Baron Haden-Guest, was a Labour Party politician who was a convert to Judaism, and Guest's paternal grandmother's father was Colonel Albert Goldsmid, a British officer who founded the Jewish Lads' and Girls' Brigade and the Maccabaeans.[2][3] Guest's maternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Russia.[1] Both of Guest's parents had become atheists, and Guest had no religious upbringing.[3] Nearly a decade before he was born, his uncle, David Guest, a lecturer and Communist Party member, was killed in the Spanish Civil War fighting in the International Brigades.

Guest spent parts of his childhood in his father's native United Kingdom. He attended The High School of Music & Art (New York City), studying classical music (clarinet) and the Stockbridge School in Interlaken, MA. He later took up the mandolin, became interested in country music, and played guitar with Arlo Guthrie a fellow student at Stockbridge School.[4] Guest later began performing with bluegrass bands until he took up rock and roll.[5]

Guest studied acting at New York University's Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts, graduating in 1971.[6]

Career[edit]

1970s[edit]

Guest began his career in theatre during the early 1970s with one of his earliest professional performances being the role of Norman in Michael Weller's Moonchildren for the play's American premiere at the Arena Stage in Washington D.C. in November 1971. Guest continued with the production when it moved to Broadway in 1972. The following year he began making contributions to The National Lampoon Radio Hour for a variety of National Lampoon audio recordings. He both performed comic characters (Flash Bazbo—Space Explorer, Mr. Rogers, music critic Roger de Swans, and sleazy record company rep Ron Fields) and wrote, arranged and performed numerous musical parodies (of Bob Dylan, James Taylor and others). He was featured alongside Chevy Chase and John Belushi in the Off-Broadway revue National Lampoon's Lemmings. Two of his earliest film roles were small parts as uniformed police officers in the 1972 film The Hot Rock and 1974's Death Wish.

Guest played a small role in the 1977 All In the Family episode "Mike and Gloria Meet", where in a flashback sequence Mike and Gloria recall their first blind date, set up by Michael's college buddy Jim (Guest), who dated Gloria's girlfriend Debbie (Priscilla Lopez).

1980s[edit]

Guest's biggest role of the first two decades of his career is likely that of Nigel Tufnel in the 1984 mockumentary film This Is Spinal Tap. Guest made his first appearance as Tufnel on the 1978 sketch comedy program The TV Show.

Along with Martin Short, Billy Crystal and Harry Shearer, Guest was hired as a one-year only cast member for the 1984–85 season on NBC's Saturday Night Live. Recurring characters on SNL played by Guest include Frankie, of Willie and Frankie (coworkers who recount in detail physically painful situations in which they have found themselves, remarking laconically "I hate when that happens"); Herb Minkman, a shady novelty toymaker with a brother named Al (played by Crystal); Rajeev Vindaloo, an eccentric foreign man in the same vein as Andy Kaufman's Latka character from Taxi; and Señor Cosa, a Spanish ventriloquist often seen on the recurring spoof of The Joe Franklin Show. He also experimented behind the camera with pre-filmed sketches, notably directing a documentary-style short starring Shearer and Short as synchronized swimmers. In another short film from SNL, Guest and Crystal appear as retired Negro league baseball players, "The Rooster and the King".

He appeared as Count Rugen in The Princess Bride. He had a cameo role as the first customer, a smarmy pedestrian, in the 1986 musical remake of The Little Shop of Horrors, that also featured his SNL co-star, Steve Martin. As a co-writer and director, Guest made the Hollywood satire The Big Picture.

Upon his father succeeding to the family peerage in 1987, he was henceforth known as The Hon. Christopher Haden-Guest in full. This was his official style and name until he inherited the barony in 1996.

1990–present[edit]

The experience of having made Spinal Tap would directly inform the second phase of his career. Starting in 1996, Guest began writing, directing and acting in his own series of substantially improvised films. Many of them would come to be definitive examples of what came to be known as "mockumentaries".

His frequent writing partner is Eugene Levy. Together, Levy, Guest and a small band of other actors have formed a loose repertory group, which appear across several films. These include Catherine O'Hara, Michael McKean, Parker Posey, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Harry Shearer, Jennifer Coolidge, Ed Begley, Jr. and Fred Willard. Guest and Levy write backgrounds for each of the characters and notecards for each specific scene, outlining the plot, and then leave it up to the actors to improvise the dialogue, which is supposed to result in a much more natural conversation than scripted dialogue would. Notably, everyone who appears in these movies receives the same fee, and the same portion of profits.[7]

Despite making a number of mockumentaries, Guest dislikes the term. He maintains that his intention is not to mock anyone, but to explore insular, perhaps obscure communities through his method of filmmaking.

He had a guest voice-over role in the animated comedy series SpongeBob SquarePants as SpongeBob's cousin, Stanley.

Guest appeared as Dr. Stone in A Few Good Men (1992), as Lord Cromer in Mrs Henderson Presents (2005) and in the 2009 comedy The Invention of Lying.

He is also currently a member of the musical group The Beyman Bros, which he formed with his childhood friend David Nichtern and Spinal Tap's current keyboardist C. J. Vanston. Their debut album Memories of Summer as a Child was released on January 20, 2009.[8]

In 2010, the United States Census Bureau paid $2.5 million to have a television commercial directed by Guest shown during television coverage of Super Bowl XLIV.[9]

Guest holds an honorary doctorate from and is a member of the board of trustees for Berklee College of Music in Boston.[10]

He is currently the writer and producer of the HBO series, Family Tree, a lighthearted story in the mockumentary style he made famous in Spinal Tap, in which the main character, Tom Chadwick, inherits a box of curios from his great aunt, spurring interest in his ancestry.

Family[edit]

Peerage and heirs[edit]

Coat of arms - Baron Haden-Guest, of Saling in the County of Essex

Guest became the 5th Baron Haden-Guest, of Great Saling, in the County of Essex, when his father died in 1996. He succeeded upon the ineligibility of his older half-brother, Anthony Haden-Guest, who was born prior to the marriage of his parents. According to an article in The Guardian, Guest attended the House of Lords regularly until the House of Lords Act 1999 barred most hereditary peers from their seats. In the article Guest remarked:

There's no question that the old system was unfair. I mean, why should you be born to this? But now it's all just sheer cronyism. The Prime Minister can put in whoever he wants and bus them in to vote. The Upper House should be an elected body, it's that simple.[11]

Ancestry[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Guest married actress Jamie Lee Curtis in 1984 at the home of their mutual friend, Rob Reiner. They have two adopted children: Anne (born 1986) and Thomas (born 1996). Because Guest's children are adopted, they cannot inherit the family barony under the terms of the letters patent that created it, though a 2004 Royal Warrant addressing the style of a peer's adopted children states that they can use courtesy titles. The current heir presumptive to the barony is Guest's younger brother, the actor The Hon. Nicholas Haden-Guest.

Off-stage demeanor[edit]

As reported by Louis B. Hobson, "On film, Guest is a hilariously droll comedian. In person he is serious and almost dour." He quotes Guest as saying "People want me to be funny all the time. They think I'm being funny no matter what I say or do and that's not the case. I rarely joke unless I'm in front of a camera. It's not what I am in real life. It's what I do for a living."[12]

Filmography[edit]

Recurring cast members[edit]

ActorThis Is Spinal Tap
(1984)
The Big Picture
(1989)
Waiting for Guffman
(1996)
Almost Heroes
(1998)
Best in Show
(2000)
A Mighty Wind
(2003)
For Your Consideration
(2006)
Family Tree
(2013)
Bob BalabanYesYesYesYesYes
Ed Begley, Jr.YesYesYesYesYes
Jennifer CoolidgeYesYesYes
John Michael HigginsYesYesYes
Michael HitchcockYesYesYesYes
Eugene LevyYesYesYesYesYes
Jane LynchYesYesYes
Michael McKeanYesYesYesYesYesYes
Larry MillerYesYesYesYes
Catherine O'HaraYesYesYesYes
Jim PiddockYesYesYesYes
Parker PoseyYesYesYesYes
Harry ShearerYesYesYesYes
Fred WillardYesYesYesYesYesYes

[7][13]

Titles and styles[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

YearAwardCategoryFilmResult[14]
1976Primetime Emmy AwardOutstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Special Ann Elder
Shared with Earl Pomerantz, Jim Rusk, Lily Tomlin, Rod Warren, George Yanok
The Lily Tomlin SpecialWon
1995International Fantasy Film AwardBest FilmAttack of the 50 Ft. Woman (1993 film)Nominated
1998Independent Spirit AwardBest Male LeadWaiting for GuffmanNominated
Best Screenplay
Shared with Eugene Levy
Nominated
Lone Star Film & Television AwardBest DirectorWon
2001DVD Exclusive AwardBest DVD Audio CommentaryThis Is Spinal TapWon
American Comedy AwardFunniest Supporting Actor in a Motion PictureBest in ShowNominated
Golden Satellite AwardBest Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or MusicalNominated
Independent Spirit AwardBest DirectorNominated
Writers Guild of America AwardBest Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Shared with Eugene Levy
Nominated
2003Seattle Film Critics AwardBest Music
Shared with John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, Annette O'Toole, Harry Shearer, Jeffrey C. J. Vanston
A Mighty WindWon

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Witchel, Alex (2006-11-12). "The Shape-Shifter". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-11-16. 
  2. ^ Murray, William Henry (1952). Adam and Cain: Symposium of Old Bible History, Sumerian Empire, Importance of Blood of Race, Juggling Juggernaut of the Leaders of the Jews, the Gothic Civilization of Adam and the Ten Commandments of His Church. Murray. 
  3. ^ a b Rosen, Steven (2006-11-16). "Want to spoof Purim and the Oscars? Be our Guest!". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles 21 (39). Retrieved 2006-11-16. 
  4. ^ Richard Grant (January 10, 2004). "Nowt so queer as folk". The Guardian Weekend. 
  5. ^ Gross, Terry (September 14, 1989). "Christopher Guest Plays with Parody". Fresh Air, WHYY (Philadelphia: NPR). Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  6. ^ "NYU Graduate Acting Alumni". 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-01. 
  7. ^ a b Rose, Charlie (May 12, 2003). "A conversation with director Christopher Guest". Charlie Rose LLC. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  8. ^ Moon, Tom (February 2, 2009). "Beyman Bros: The Thinking Person's Americana". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  9. ^ "Taxpayers to Fork Out $2.5 Million for Single Census Ad During Super Bowl". Fox News. February 3, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  10. ^ Shanahan, Mark (18 October 2011). "Christopher Guest parties for Berklee". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  11. ^ Richard Grant (January 10, 2004). "Nowt so queer as folk". The Guardian Weekend. 
  12. ^ Hobson, Louis B (October 10, 2000). "Guest Shots". Canoe Jam! (Canoe Inc.). Retrieved 2007-08-29. 
  13. ^ [1] "Repertory company"
  14. ^ "Christopher Guest - Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 2013-03-15. 

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Brad Hall
Weekend Update Anchor
1984–1985
Succeeded by
Dennis Miller
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Peter Haden-Guest
Baron Haden-Guest
1996–present
Incumbent